Much-loved Paignton vendor Tony Lucas has died

The 52-year-old was popular on his pitch outside Tesco in the Devon town where he could often be seen looking after customers’ dogs while they shopped

We are saddened to announce that much-loved vendor Tony Lucas has died.

The 52-year-old lost his life on February 25 had experienced a series of health-related complications following his collapse with an epileptic fit on his pitch outside Tesco in Paignton town centre.

His family told The Big Issue that this fall resulted in a broken shoulder and a punctured lung, and he had to undergo an eight-hour operation but dramatically shed weight. On his release from hospital, he dramatically shed weight, suffering from diarrhoea and a wound that had not healed.

A post-mortem has proven inconclusive and an investigation into Tony’s death is on-going. His funeral will be held at 2.45pm on March 18 at Torquay Crematorium. His family have said that anyone is welcome to attend.

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Tony was a "gentle soul" who grew up with a love of fishing

Tony had moved to Paignton following the 2005 London 7/7 bombings when he was caught up in the bus explosion in Tavistock Square. He went missing for three days in the wake of the attack before returning to his family wearing charred clothes.

His mother Marion Lucas-Moore said that the traumatising incident had a big impact on Tony and compounded issues he had experienced after a violent mugging when he was 18 years old inflicting brain damage and left him with lifelong epilepsy and memory problems.

“After the bombing he said to me: “Mum, it isn’t safe in London anymore,” Marion told The Big Issue.

“So I told him to come and move down here to Paignton and that’s what he did.

“He loved it here, he was always a keen fisherman and when we first moved down he was in his element because he loved to go fishing all day.”

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Tony loved living in Paignton because to indulge his love of fishing

Since Tony began selling The Big Issue magazine 11 years ago, he had become a much-loved part of the community in Paignton.

Marion said: “We are pleased that most people seemed to speak well of him but we knew that Tony was like that – he knew a lot of people in the town, they all spoke to him and he enjoyed that.

“He’s always been a fairly gentle soul but he did have his problems.

“I’m certain that selling The Big Issue helped him and he used to treat it as a job, he used to call it his work and he used to like the routine of it. I think it made him get out of himself, he liked the people he dealt with and he was quite diligent at the job too.”

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Flowers have been left at Tony's pitch in the wake of his death with tributes flooding in online

Steve Carter, The Big Issue’s Devon and Cornwall team leader, said: “It’s very sad – I’ve known Tony for as long as I’ve been at The Big Issue.

“He’s always been very well-liked and was always seen holding people’s dogs while they were shopping at the Tesco on his pitch and he was also renowned for helping old people too.

“Tony will be much missed by all of us here at The Big Issue.”

News of Tony’s death has seen an outpouring of emotion in Paignton with tributes flooding in.

“I feel sad under the circumstances of his passing, but feel so happy to have known Tony,” said friend Mark Fry. “It made me feel humble and made me feel a little less narrow-minded of how lives can change at the drop of a hat just by knowing him and listening to how his life had been. I really hope we all have the chance to say goodbye to this great guy who will be sadly missed and not forgotten.”

Ryan Kirby added: “A true gentleman and a great character, always had the time for a chat and a joke. Had the pleasure of knowing you for about five years. Sleep well mate.”

And Jackie Bissell said: “A great, pleasant and kind character gone from Paignton town centre. Rest in peace.”

Images: Marion Lucas-Moore